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À bout de souffle (1960)

Finally, I have watched this three times. The last time took me nearly four hours to watch it, at the same time I have written fifteen pages of notes. It’s a bit silly, because the film itself is only part of the exam question I have to write about. Guess it’s because I really like this film a lot. The third time I watched this, and the closer I watched this, I found it more and more amazing in many many ways. The shot I have cut this frame out of is one towards the end of the film, and it’s one of my favourites.
However, I am not going to praise Jean Luc Godard here. I have no intention to do that at all. Also, I am not going to talk about scenes that have been discussed heavily in all those text books, especially the murder of the cop at the beginning of the film: about the elliptical style, the close angles, the rapidity and disorientating scale of shots, and the long, wide shot of Michel fleeing across the fields… ya, I am not going to talk about those. And no, I do not talk seriously and in details like those film critics, just want to note down some things, which are… maybe minor, but who cares, I am going to list them out.

Wiping thumb across lips
Okay, if I count it right, id est, if I didn’t miss any, then there are nine times:
1. At the very beginning, when he’s about to steal a car.
2. When he makes his first phone call after he entered the city.
3. When he looks into the mirror at his girlfriend’s place. Note that this is the first time he play with his facial expression, which he repeats in Patricia’s apartment when he says sulk doesn’t suit her, and later, just before he dies.
4. The obvious one: when he’s looking at a poster of Bogart, which explains his “ritualistic” (I say) action.
5. At Patricia’s apartment, in front of the mirror, saying “What a pain. I always fall for girls who aren’t for me.” (I was thinking… LOL)
6. At Patricia’s apartment, after she says “I’ll stare at you until you stop sharing at me.”
7. At Patricia’s apartment, after she says “I want to know what’s behind your face.”
8. Just before she leave Patricia at the entrance to the News conference.
9. After Patricia blow a kiss to him while he’s talking to Antonio and she’s talking to another guy.
Okay, of course, there is the famous tenth occurrence, but that’s by Patricia, at the end of the film.

By the way, she’s very pretty, I love her.

Iris-out and Iris-in
First of all, reminded me Looney Tunes. Apologize to people who are serious about films all the time and find cutie talking animals in cartoons are disgusting.
There are two places, Iris-out/Iris-in are used in the film:
1. When Michel walked away from Bogart’s poster, you can see the inspectors looking for him. Later it iris-in, focusing on Michel’s hand with 2 coins only, while he is promising Patricia for dinner.

2. A random guy (Godard himself, sadly, not much hair left on his forehead when he’s around 30…) recognises Michel and informs the police. And later we see the couple at the entrance of the News conference.

I like the first set a lot more than the second. Don’t bother explaining why now.

Dialogues in her apartment

I know a lot of people find this part too long and boring (well that’s what those kids say in the tutorial class), but I really like this scene. Not my favourite, but second. Purely personal preference, I like the scene in Rue Campagne Première more – told you I have weird taste.

  1. About looking at each other…
    There are so many instances Michel or Patricia caught looking at the other. To me, they are very romantic (you know, I am a hopeless romantic).
    >“Why are you looking at me?”

“Because I am.”

“I’ll stare at you until you stop staring at me.”

“We look each other in the eyes and it means nothing.”

“I’m looking at you.”

“The French are stupid too.”

“Funny I can see my reflection in your eyes.”

“A real Franco-American reconciliation.”

At the end of the bedroom scene, they kiss again when he’s lying down on her stomach. Then they remove their sunglasses, look into each other’s eyes and kiss again.
Nothing more important than eye contacts.

  1. About time…
    Earlier in the film Patricia makes a comment when Michel tells her to wait for a second, she says
    >“The French always say one second when they mean five minutes.”

Now in the bedroom, he asks her when will she know whether she loves him or not, and she says “soon”.

“When will you know?”


“In a month, in a year?”

“Soon means soon".”

“A woman never wants to do in eight seconds what she’ll want to do eight days later. Eight seconds and eight days, it’s all the same. Why not eight centuries?”

“No, eight days is good.”

“A woman’s all half-measures. It gets me down.”

Again, as I said, time is a subjective phenomenon.

  1. About Romeo and Juliet…
    Believe it or not, I like the story of Romeo and Juliet. I mean, I like it because it’s stupid, unrealistic, a fantasy. I never take it as a love story. It’s not about love but pride and prejudice. Romeo thinks he cannot live without Juliet, and Juliet thinks she cannot live without Romeo. That’s because Juliet is becoming fourteen and Romeo is “no manlike beard there grew”. Sorry for breaking the dream of the kids, but no, I do not believe in “couldn’t live without someone”.
    >“I want us to be like Romeo and Juliet.”

“Just like a girl!”

“You said last night you couldn’t live without me, but you can. Romeo couldn’t live without Juliet, but you can.”

“No, I can’t live without you.”

“Just like a man!”

Michel has chosen his destiny partly bases on his love for Patricia, this is true; and at the end it leads to his death unexpectedly (well, for him). He chooses to stay (and die) rather than leave (and live). He didn’t live without her, although that’s not necessarily “couldn’t”, however effort counts, right?

  1. About Scare and cigarette…
    This is a rather interesting conversation.

    >“How do you know I am scared?”

“If a girl says she’s not scared, then can’t even light her cigarette, it means she’s scared of something. I don’t know of what, but she’s scared.”

“See? I’m not scared”

“I never said you were.”

“You bet, pet.”


“But you wish you had said it. And now you’re angry.”

“I'm not talking to you anymore.”

Forget about the lighting cigarette part, but see what he says there: “But you wish you had said it. And now you’re angry.” I was totally amazed when I see this line (ya, see, mind you I cannot speak nor understand French). How many men in the world can see through that clearly, I wonder. That line itself is like a secret being revealed. It’s too honest, therefore she stands up and says she’s not talking to him anymore.
This reminds me, several times, someone read through me clearly and stated out my deepest thought, like a secret being revealed. I instantly rebutted. Logical? No. But in situation like this we always try to find something to say, just want to hide and make the one who see through you admit he’s wrong – even in the rebuttal process we have to say something that hurts him. Well, Patricia just ends the conversation temporarily.
Now go back to the relationship between scare of something and lighting cigarette. In the Rue Campagne Première scene, after Patricia tells Michel that she’s called the police and explains why she’s made that move, Michel says “You’re out of your mind. That’s a pathetic way to reason.”. He doesn’t seem angry or upset at all. Then he walks away and lights up his cigarette, quickly and easily.
Which means, he’s not scared.

Now I finally understand why someone always says my thinking is stupid, and my action is stupid. I guess, I have a pathetic way to reason as well. Same. Too bad that I do not have a pretty face, therefore, unforgivable.

Rue Campagne Première
Okay, my favourite scene. My favourite part is after she come back from buying newspaper, bottle of milk, and calling the police, then she informs Michel about it. Now she starts walking around the room talking to Michel (more to herself I’d say), while Michel is talking to her (again, more to himself I’d say) at the same time, their dialogues overlapping. It’s… a bit like… there’s a part in Masquerade that Christine and Raoul sing “You will understand in time”/“I can only hope I’ll understand in time”.

No, I’m fine.

No, I’m not.

I don’t want to go with you.

(she’s walking around and talking some French here…


I don’t want to be in love with you.

That’s why I called the police.

I stayed with you to see if I was in love with you, or if I wasn’t in love with you.

And since I’m being cruel to you, it proves I’m not in love with you.

(here she has just finished a circle and back to Michel)

And since I’m being cruel to you, it proves I’m not in love with you.

If I loved you… It’s too complicated!

I want people to leave me alone.

Maybe you love me.

That’ why I gave you away.

Now you have no choice but to go.

(again, she has just finished another circle and back to Michel)

I knew it.

I just talk about myself, and you, yourself.

You should’ve talked about me, and me, about you.

Say that again!

They say there’s no happy love. On the contrary, there’s no unhappy love.

I’m independent.

You think you are. You’re not.

I’m better than you are.

Patricia crossing the road happily
Not much I want to say about this, just, feel happy when I see this shot. It’s very cute.
I tried not to step on the gaps between concrete sections on the pedestrian roads usually, because… you know, they are snakes, they bite. :)

Champs Elysées
Ah… this is getting a bit too long. I thought I am not going to say anything major and therefore this is going to be short. Let me finish this off with the long take on the Champs Elysées.
Why people all walk in the middle of the road in those days? :D

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May 15, 2008